*endless screaming*

The proof copy of Mornnovin was supposed to arrive today, so I was pretty excited as I checked the mail. In fact I opened the door, looked down, saw a package, and literally squeaked.

Let’s get this bad boy inside!

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Well that does look pretty book-shaped. Let’s see what–

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OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!

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*screaming*

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THIS IS MY BOOK. WHAT THE FUCK‽‽‽

So yeah. Um.

I made a book and I am not calm about it. You must excuse me while I go hyperventilate.

I’m pending!

Having shared this first with my backers on my Kickstarter page, and then having taken a moment to finish screaming, I’d like to announce that my debut novel, Mornnovin, has a (tentative) release date of April 2nd, 2019.

falling star with text

cover art © Scott Baucan 2019

This is obviously tremendously exciting. There’s still a lot to be done and shockingly little time left in which to do it, but let’s just all scream together for a moment, yeah?

HOLY SHIT, I’M PUBLISHING A NOVEL! LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL, REAL COVER!

So, yeah. Stay tuned for more about this VERY EXCITING thing that is happening. Like, I’d actually like to do a post about the backer rewards I’ve made, because I’m pretty proud of them and I want to share, but for right now it’s all about the fact that at this very moment, somewhere in the world, a physical copy of my novel actually exists and is in the mail on its way to me for my final approval, and how that’s so surreal and wonderful that I can hardly breathe.

 

this has been Week One proper

Did I forget to mention here that, at long last, I’m finally making a book?!

Although my Kickstarter campaign closed (successfully!) on January 4th, I’ve spent much of the month in creative limbo while waiting for the site and my bank to process the donations. The waiting was not awesome, knowing what I needed to be doing but not having the means to do it.

Following the national holiday on Monday, the funding finally came through on Tuesday, and after doing a squealgasp of excitement I got to work.

The LLC is filed and paid for; I am now the somewhat giddy owner of my very own shiny new publishing imprint. That’s a check on the copyright, too. I also bought a bulk package of ISBNs and so was able to start compiling the files for the eBook, paperback, and special hardcover copies of the novel.

Do you know how long it takes to browse 658 pages of fonts online? I do, because that’s how I spent last Sunday night instead of getting a full night’s sleep, shopping for the perfect cover font.

One of the prizes going out to my backers is a short story set in the world of Asrellion, and I’d been kicking around the idea of using some of the surplus funds to print out nice little physical copies. That idea, unfortunately, has turned out to be a bust (too cost-prohibitive for anything halfway decent) so it’s back to Plan A on that which is digital. But work on the other little bits and bobs of backer swag continues while I also try to get a handle on the business aspect of everything that goes into not only publishing but promoting a novel.

Most thrilling of all, I’ve been getting progress sketches all week from my cover artist, Scott Baucan, culminating in a surprise message yesterday that it was done already, ahead of schedule. And guys. It. is. gorgeous. I can’t tell you how much I love it and how excited I am to see it in my hand on the front of my book.

Here is just a little teaser-taste for your ogling enjoyment.

cover teaser small

 

This week I’ll be getting craftsy, and continuing work on the files to be sent to the printing company. I’m trying without much luck to untangle a pretty knotty riddle: they want my page count in order to complete the setup file and issue my cover template, but how do I know what my page count will be before I’ve seen the thing formatted as a print book?

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Now that I’ve got an imprint, and cover art, and ISBNs, and funds to pay for printing, the only thing standing between me and a spring release of my debut novel is my own ability to format the interior files, navigate the setup process, and figure out how one goes about obtaining advance reviews on a book that does not yet physically exist. This is dizzyingly exciting, but I’m also discovering that the stress and anxiety of being in charge of this whole thing myself is pretty nauseating and I’m sure I’m going to mess up something crucial.

Still. For tonight, I leave on this high:

text teaser

Guys that’s my name on the cover of a book — my book!

 

Do you like pretty things? I do.

Well, Christmas is over. The year is on its last legs, and so is my Kickstarter campaign. At 10:30 a.m. on Friday, January, 4th, this fundraiser ends for good or ill. Will we make it to $4000 by then? I think so. There’s only $1244 left to go. But we can’t let up, not yet.

This is a time of year that I always associate with beauty in all its forms. Sparkling, glittering, star-filled nights, delicious aromas, lovely chords of magical music, the warmth of love and kindness. The holiday may technically be past, but the season is not. Not just yet. It is still a time of beauty, of magic, for just a little longer. I think it’s fitting that this is the setting for the final days of this fundraiser.

In the spirit of that beauty, and because it’s all Kickstarter all the time for a few more days yet, today I’m going to show you something pretty. One of the very special rewards I’ve offered to backers at the $100 level is “a hand-made piece of custom elven jewelry crafted by the author.” So I thought I’d share some of the jewelry I’ve made in the past, to give an idea of what that might look like.

Most of the pieces of jewelry I’ve made over the years have been gifts, so all I have anymore are the unimpressive cell phone photos I snapped before sending them on their way. Here is one:

That is a pendant hand-sculpted and then finished with gold and silver leaf.

This is an iridescent bit of seashell I picked up at Cannon Beach in Oregon. I fixed it with a genuine pearl and finished the back with silver leaf.

Hand-sculpted iridescent purple lily.

Swarokvski crystals, genuine pearl, feathers, paper flowers, and a crocheted choker band.

This isn’t jewelry, but I sculpted and leafed these leaves too:

This also is not jewelry, but it was intended as a sort of mixed media rendering of Loralíenasa Raia’s falling star symbol. Here is my old sketch of the symbol itself, for reference:

And here is the craft version:

But this is my favorite. I made this for one of my very best friends, oh, so many years ago that I couldn’t even tell you when, and she still wears it. She wore it to my wedding in October.

So there you have it: a sampling of some pretty elfyness. If you like what you see here, maybe take a jaunt over to the fundraiser page and think about donating to the book. I’m so close to being able to publish this thing, and I’d love to be able to thank you for your help.

Friday morning thoughts

I knew before I started running this fundraising campaign that this is well outside my wheelhouse and I’d be groaning about existence before it was over. I’ve got 13 days to go and let’s just say I have mixed feelings about that.

Want to know what’s great? Being only $1514 away from your $4000 goal.

Want to know what’s really stressful? Still being $1514 away from your $4000 goal.

You know what, though? I really feel like this is going to happen. $1514 may be a lot of money, especially at Christmas, but it’s not an impossible amount. Just look what all those frightened xenophobes have managed to raise in order to keep the poor and the needy at arm’s length at the holiday season. (Imagine what they could have done to care for those poor souls with that same amount of money. But I digress.) There’s another $1514 out there somewhere for a hopeful, starry-eyed writer just trying to get her words out into the world. I have to believe that.

I might be feeling a bit maudlin today because of the grey weather, an immune system that’s struggling to fend off the crud my husband brought home from work, a puppy who has an upset stomach, the adrenaline crash of being done with all of my Christmas preparations, and the inevitable feelings of inertia you get when you receive word that something (in this case the arrival of a client) you were all geared up for is going to come later than expected. Tomorrow it’s fun goofing off and holiday parties and another update to the Kickstarter, but for right now I’m taking a moment to say, candidly, “Oof.”

And hey, you could help me shave that $1514 down a bit, eh?

MORNNOVIN: The Way of the Falling Star Book 1

A new friend, and an exciting offer.

As we near the halfway point, both in the campaign and in funds raised, I’d like to introduce you to another one of the characters you’ll find in MORNNOVIN.

I’ve chosen this particular introduction as a shout-out and thank you to Natasha Gonzales, who is not only a great friend but has also been one of the biggest supporters of my writing over the years. If you are of the fandom persuasion, it might interest/excite you to know that Tasha has offered to write custom Asrellion fanfiction for anyone who can show a receipt that they’ve backed this fundraiser.

This, friends, is Víelle Sívéo.

Gina Carano as Vielle 2

Gina Carano appearing as the author’s facecast

In Evlédíen, the elves’ hidden new home, the Royal Guard is no longer the almost ceremonial entity it used to be in more innocent times. Its members are respected even as the need for their work is a constant reminder that those innocent times are gone forever.

Guard member Víelle (pronounced vee-yell) is all too aware of the grim reality of the world her people now live in and she is committed to keeping them safe by any means necessary. Even if, say, those means are not strictly legal.

She’s into swords, leather, duty, music, deadpan humor, her wife, and doing her own personal best at whatever she tries to do.

You’re welcome, Tasha, and thank you!

25%, baby!

The Kickstarter to fund MORNNOVIN has hit the 1/4 mark after five days.

This is good, but not great. That is to say, theoretically, as long as I secure $1000 a week of the total $4000 goal, I’m still on track. However, I can’t expect to have multiple big-number days like launch day, so there’s a chance I might see my progress peter out here.

Still, this milestone is cause for celebration! Head over to the link for an update and a cute video of my dog eating snow. And, as before, tell all your friends!

It’s here! It’s happening!

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My friends, this is a huge day for me — as a writer, as a fantasy fan, as a human being with a life-long dream — and not just because it’s snowing and I’m a starry-eyed desert rat. It’s a huge day because as of riiiiight… now! the fundraiser to gather the funds to publish the first novel in my fantasy series is live!

MORNNOVIN is happening!

Oof, you might say. A fundraiser at the holidays? That’s rough.

Maybe! But also? Maybe (I’m hoping) we’ll tap into some of the spirit of giving. Some of that milk of human kindness. Some of the holiday cheer that loves a chance to make dreams come true.

Wander on over to the fundraiser page. Have a look. Maybe save it for later if you feel so inclined. Please do share far and wide.

And Happy Holidays.

Great news, and some just news

Photo Oct 13, 4 18 39 PM (1)

photo by Jamie Carey

Two weeks ago, on October 13th 2018, I had the joy and the privilege of exchanging marriage vows with the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. It was a mad, chaotic day, but I came out of it joined to someone whose perfection as a counterpoint, friend, and partner to me cannot be adequately expressed. That’s the great — the greatest! — news.

The just news is this:

With wedding planning and the last of the formal wedding responsibilities now in my rearview mirror, it’s my intention to dive headlong into the work necessary to self-publish Book 1 of my fantasy trilogy (with Book 2 to follow as soon as I’ve paved the way.) Watch this space for more news on that front as it develops!

And there’s even a dog, too.

 

When you drop everything you’ve ever known and run away to start a new life on the other side of the country, that’s bound to be a wild ride.

Hooboy, has it been.

The downs have been pret-ty low – loneliness, a gutting betrayal, housing insecurity, unsafe living conditions, doglessness, broken foot, PTSD – but oh man. The ups.

When I fled Arizona, it wasn’t so much as a faint notion in the back of my mind that I might meet someone new and fall madly in love. I was honestly just looking for safety, independence, seasons, and the freedom to write.

Last week I celebrated three years legally divorced from my abuser. And today I hold in my hand a license to marry a partner so ridiculously perfect that even at my most fantastically creative I couldn’t have custom-designed him in a lab to be this wonderful.

So yeah, it’s been pretty wild.

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Me Too

I wrestled for a while with the decision of whether to post this here. I always intended this space to be more about my writing than about me personally, although I do realize that my life is not disconnected from my writing. In the end, I concluded that this might help explain why this space has been largely neglected for the last couple years as I sorted out some real-life stuff. It has been a transitional period, and not an entirely smooth one.

Here’s why.

CW for graphic discussion of rape and suicidal ideation.

Continue reading

Question 2: Natural Writing

In the realm of reasons to leave a half-written blog post shelved for several months past its intended publication date, I’ve got one of the best. Let’s just say that my personal life has been going very well and I’ve been happily spending more time than usual away from my keyboard.

But because I really have been meaning to get back to those writing questions, today I’m finally going to talk about this one:

“How to sentence structure without sounding like an essay?”

Well, for me, it’s easier to work on a problem when I understand its parts. So let’s break down what I see as some of the factors that lead to Essay Speak.

(Caveat: there is no one correct way to write any more than there is only one good kind of writing. This advice is geared exclusively toward combating the formulaic nature of academic writing, not necessarily toward producing the finest of literature.)

1. Word choice.
2. Pattern redundancy.
3. Formality/distance.
which all plays into
4. Voice

As it happens, I’ve talked about some of these things before at another place for writers. I was a good deal more pompous back then, but my thoughts were still good, so I’m going to riff off of them here.

Word Choice:
Words are power. The right word gives you more power over your reader; the wrong one weakens your ideas.

Avoid vague language — words like “big” and “very” and “stuff” that don’t tell us what you really want us to know. Besides being uninformative, these words are also boring. Precision is not only easier to read, but often infuses more color. And why would you want to only come close to telling us what you want us to know, when you could use the right word and nail your ideas firmly into our brains?

Along with vague language, you also want to avoid tired, weak words. You can do this especially by paying attention to your verbs. Choose exciting verbs that push your sentence and the action forward and give you momentum. Dazzle, swagger, gleam, beguile, demand, force, bequeath. So much more interesting to read — and so much more informative — than your run-of-the-mill go, walk, do, be, ask. Try not to be passive with your language. Where possible, tell us what happens, not what is being done to something/someone. (See how one construction there is concise and the other wordy?) Also, words that are unexpected or that appeal to the senses are more engaging to the reader’s imagination and anchor them in your narrative.

That having been said, don’t force it. If you’re not comfortable with what you’re saying, your reader won’t be either — they can tell when you don’t sound like yourself. The thesaurus is especially not your friend if it leads you to incorrectly use words you don’t properly understand. The thing is that there’s no such thing as a true synonym. There are only related words that mean close to the same thing, but each has its own unique contextual applications and conveys its own individual flavor. You get a different idea about who I the author am, the tone of my voice, and what I mean if I say infuriated rather than angry.

And maybe most importantly, don’t use any words you don’t need to. (Need, of course, being dictated by style and not just meaning.)

Pattern redundancy:
This is one of the worst culprits where it comes to Essay Speak, and it’s inherent to the format of essay-writing. Statement, supporting idea, supporting idea, supporting idea. Repeat in new paragraph until essay is complete. It gets so easy to structure every sentence exactly the same way because what you’re doing is essentially math in written form — adding sentence to sentence until you’ve racked up enough to fill your page or word requirement. But there’s no passion that way, no spontaneity, no art, and no one wants to be reading that. Especially not in fiction.

You combat the academic doldrums with passion, spontaneity, and art.

Be concise, but be flexible. Get excited about what you’re saying, Get so worked up that your ideas aren’t even coming out as complete sentences. Vomit your feelings onto the page. Feelings don’t follow neat patterns. After you’ve written them down, when you’re in editing mode, that’s when you worry about making sure your sentences are grammatical enough to make sense. What matters most is that you’re definitely not going to be writing a series of “This is Spot. Spot is a dog. Spot likes playing catch. Catch is a fun game,” sentences. Short statements are good for punch here and there, but too many in a row become just as boring as meandering monsters with a million clauses.

Reading your work out loud is an excellent way to hear whether you’re repeating words or sentence structures. Also literally pulling your visual focus back far enough from the work to see the paragraphs as impressionistic shapes instead of a series of sentences can give you an immediate sense of whether you’re throwing down one same-size paragraph after another.

Formality/distance:
Word choice is a significant part of this, but it’s also about ideas and structure. You may imagine that speaking in a way that isn’t natural to you sounds intelligent or more organized than you innately are, and maybe you can manage to pull that off, but it’s like wearing a tuxedo on a first date. It’s distancing and your date can tell that you’re not letting them see your natural presentation. It’s a deliberate, obvious barrier. Readers can tell when you’ve removed yourself from the work and it’s alienating.

It’s no accident that academic writing feels impersonal. The distance allows facts to stand on their own merits without being shaded by the author’s opinions. So the natural counter to this deliberate removal of the author from the work is to put more of yourself in. Use quirky turns of phrase. Say things to the reader that presume a connection. Be revealing. Be provocative.

Be you.

And that brings us to,

Voice:
It takes courage to be a writer, and this is where you need it most because simply put, voice is you coming through in your writing. Your unique perspective, your idiosyncratic speech patterns, your own way of approaching and prioritizing and talking about your ideas. It can be scary to expose yourself this way, but this is where authentic writing comes from.

Mastering voice is simple but not necessarily easy. Just, be honest. Write what you actually feel, not what you imagine someone else wants to hear or what you think is the “right” way to say it. You are the only you, the only one bringing exactly your combination of experiences, education, vocabulary, attitudes, and humor to the written word. Show us the world through your eyes because no one else can do it. This is the opposite of Essay Speak, which aspires to ignorable sameness.

Write the way you would speak – but better, because in writing you have the ability to plan your words and only say the ones you mean to say – and do not do not do not try to be impressive. A reader can tell when you’re being honest, when you believe what you’re saying, when you’re confident and when you have conviction because you’re sincere. They can also tell when you’re full of crap and trying to wow with vocabulary and ideas and a style that are not your own.

Basically what I’m saying is that the best way to sound like a person and not an encyclopedia entry is to keep things light and fresh. People speak in unexpected and unpretty ways; essays follow neat patterns and try for one particular, unnatural voice. Once you’ve gotten your messy realness down onto the page, then you can clean it up to be whatever it needs to be.

And that, for whatever it’s worth, is my advice on how to sentence structure without sounding like an essay.